Seven-spot ladybirds

Posted: Friday 30 May 2014
by Kate Bradbury

I've never seen so many ladybirds. Moreover, I've never seen so many ladybirds having sex.

7-spot ladybirds

I've never seen so many ladybirds. Moreover, I've never seen so many ladybirds having sex.

Since taking on my allotment in March I've been treading on, rescuing, watching and rearing ladybirds. They sun themselves on the soil, they lay eggs on the chard, they eat aphids on my broad beans and they nearly drown in the water butts.

And they mate at every opportunity – I made a video of seven-spot ladybirds mating to a romantic soundtrack of a robin’s song, and I’ve even seen harlequins at it within minutes of emerging from their pupa (it’s easy to tell because they don’t develop their colours for an hour or so after emerging, so they are pale and creamy instead of red and white). It’s a veritable ladybird bonanza on my allotment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

After the washout summer of 2012 and cold spring of 2013, ladybirds suffered a bit of a knock back. Wet, cold conditions stop insects flying, which then stops them feeding and breeding. Those that survived summer will have spent winter as adults, going without food for several months before stocking up on aphids in spring. Only, spring 2013 was a washout too. The result: very few ladybirds last year.

But somewhere, some ladybirds must have been busy in 2013 because, this year, there are hundreds of them.

On my allotment I have mainly seven-spot ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata) and non-native harlequins (Harmonia axyridis), which arrived to Britain from Europe in 2004. Both of these species have similar habitat requirements and eat a lot of aphids. I keep accidentally bringing ladybird eggs home with me on chard leaves – I keep these as pets and feed them aphids for a while before returning them to the plot.

Sadly I have seen fewer two-spot ladybirds (Adalia 2-punctata) than their bigger, more robust relatives. Perhaps it will take a little longer for their numbers to recover. This species has suffered a 44 per cent decline since the arrival of the harlequin – it’s thought the harlequin out-competes the two-spot for food, but also eats the two-spots when aphids are in short supply.

All of these ladybirds are making short work of the blackfly on my broad beans, but they’re also causing no end of amusement on the allotment. I just wish they weren’t so partial to mating on the ground – it makes weeding quite difficult.

If you have seen a ladybird, please record your sighting with the UK Ladybird Survey. You can also download the iRecord Ladybirds app, which enables you to record sightings from your phone.

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fidgetbones 07/06/2014 at 07:13

This year is the first time I have seen ladybirds mating. Then I found another lot the same day.I recorded them as well. Well, I would sooner have a plague of ladybirds than a plague of aphids.